The 2015-16 Washington Legislature convened in January 2015 with tax revenues recovered from the economic recession, in large part due to a revived housing market. Though tax revenue had stabilized, the State Legislature had to address the Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision on funding of basic education. The Court ruled that the Legislature was not meeting its State Constitutional obligation to provide adequate funding for basic education, relying too heavily on local district levies. Further, the Court imposed sanctions on the Legislature for not implementing educational reforms and increased funding quickly enough.
To increase education funding, Governor Inslee and the House of Representatives proposed a number of tax increases, some of which would have harmed the real estate industry and property owners. Major proposals included an increase the business and occupation (B&O) tax on real estate brokers and other service businesses, and a new state tax on income from capital gains, including the sale of real estate. REALTORS® successfully opposed these tax measures, and ultimately a two-year operating budget passed without tax increases impacting real estate or property owners. The 2015 session included multiple special sessions, lasting into the early days of July—nearly a record for the longest legislative session.
With relatively stable tax revenues, the 2016 Session supplemental budget focused on issues such as costs from 2015’s wildfire season, homelessness issues, and adopting a work plan to enable the Legislature to comply with McCleary funding requirements during the 2017 Session.
By the end of both sessions, REALTORS® had succeeded in passing or opposing bills to improve our industry, protect real estate brokers and guard home ownership and property owners by: